I wish this story was about reading, writing and arithmetic.
But it’s not.
It’s about a serious problem in the Province of Manitoba.
It seems racism and perceptions of racism have become major obstacles in the fight to narrow the racial divide in “not so” Friendly Manitoba.
That picture became clear after I published a story called, “RCMP Report Delivers Death Blow to Racist Ideology.” The purpose of the story was to debunk the tired myth Police don’t give a shit when Aboriginal people get murdered.
Okay, I admit, that’s not all the story was about.
The story was also about vindication. Vindication for Homicide investigators across the Country who’ve been targeted and labelled racists for their perceived lack of investigative interest in solving the murders of Aboriginal women. The findings of the National RCMP report into Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women should remove any logical doubt.
The report found the murders of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal women were solved at virtually the same rate. (88% vs 89%)
Finally, after years of being forced to listen to repugnant racist allegations and lies, hard evidence exposes the truth. Homicide Detectives investigate the killings of Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal women with the same tenacity, dedication and commitment. I hoped the news might provide some level of comfort to members of the Aboriginal community.
It seems I may have been wrong.
After posting the story I knew something was up when my blog stats literally exploded.
If I didn’t realize it before, viewer comments proved just how difficult it is to have a rational, respectful discussion about race in Manitoba.
“It’s obvious you’ve been infected with deep-rooted hatred and racism against the Aboriginal population of Canada,” one reader scoffed.
Another accused me of “Spewing hatred with made up twisted facts.”
Other readers suggested;
- I was a racist
- I hated Aboriginal women
- I blamed the victims
- I was part of the Colonial machine
- I was the equivalent of a Holocaust denier
As always, I published the comments and responded with what I considered rational, fair, temperate replies.
As outrageous as the misinterpretations, misrepresentations and labels were, I still believe there is much to learn from people who have opposing views. A conversation is something that offers all participants an opportunity to learn and grow.
So what did I learn from the vitriol and personal attacks?
- I learned racism remains an extremely difficult, emotional topic for discussion in our Province.
- I learned racism and perceptions of racism infect the very fabric of our society in Manitoba.
- I learned racism and the perception of racism has the ability to distort reality.
- I learned the word racism is “like ketchup, it can be put on practically anything but demanding evidence of it makes you racist.” (Thomas Sowell)
- I learned confronting racism can automatically make you a racist.
After reading and responding to many of the comments I had an epiphany.
I finally get why Politicians prefer to skirt issues related to the Aboriginal Community, racism or racist perceptions. It takes a certain amount of courage to engage in these conversations. It concerns me that people prefer to be silent on these issues out of fear they may be tagged with the racist label when change requires strong vocal leadership.
In December last year I wrote a story that was published in the Winnipeg Free Press called, “Elusive Killers – Sex Trade Worker Slayings Not so Easy to Solve.” The story explored the technical complexities and hardships investigators encounter when trying to solve the killings of sex trade workers. Technical aspects like;
- Suspect pool
- Inability to establish victim time line
- Inability to establish motive
- Lack of witnesses
- Outdoor crime scenes
The story was inspired by an Aboriginal activist who made racially divisive remarks at a local protest connected to the Missing & Murdered Women issue. It was my attempt to provide the public with an intimate look into sex trade murder investigations by someone who had the experience required to do so. It was an exercise to confront a widely held perception in the Aboriginal Community that these killings go unsolved because of systemic racism and lack of Police interest.
The story didn’t blame the victims, make excuses, offer apologies or explore the profound effects of Colonialism.
Yet the narrow focus of the article was completely lost on Winnipeg Free Press commenter Deanna Zantingh, a self-proclaimed masters student working in First Nations contexts who labelled me a racist, condemned the story and remarked, “Why does he never once stop and ask; How did these women get to this place of high-risk to begin with.”
Zantingh further indicated she felt, “Deep lament braided into anger and disgust,” after she read my story.
Thankfully, it wasn’t left to me to make the distinction between social work and homicide investigation for Ms Zantingh as WFP commenter Michael Melanson came to the rescue;
“The closest Jewell came to blaming the victims was suggesting their choice to enter the sex trade placed them at high risk for harm,” he wrote.
He went deeper;
“Presumably as a “masters student in First Nations contexts,” Zantingh would argue these women did not truly choose to become sex-trade workers but were rather compelled to take a tragic path as aboriginal women coming from families traumatized intergenerationally by colonialism. Evidently, in supposing these women had a free will, Jewell is a racist. Zantingh holds that these aboriginal women were only products of their environment. The wholesale assignment of victimhood is dehumanizing and the negation of personal responsibility infantilizes the subject.”
Thank you Mr Melanson.
The tragedy in all of this is the “educated” race card players like Zantingh and the TPI commenters make it extremely difficult for a much-needed reality based conversation to take place. After all, does anyone really want to be subjected to personal attacks or be tagged a racist?
The time has come to advance the conversation.
The RCMP report is the single most comprehensive investigative document ever created regarding the plight of Missing & Murdered Aboriginal Women in our Country.
Now that these findings are known it’s time to shift our attention to a proactive strategy for drastically reducing the unacceptable statistics highlighted in the report.
The time has come for ownership and leadership.
Let’s see who wants the ball!
TPI story “Elusive Killers – Sex Trade Worker Slayings Not so Easy to Solve” was published in the WFP with the headline, “Enough with the Racist Rhetoric.” The WFP assigns their own headlines to articles that appear in their paper.